On Feb. 28, 8 year-old Nina Centofanti who was born prematurely was accompanied by top volunteers of March for Babies and honorary chair of event Bill Fitzgerald of General Electric to ring The Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Bill Fitzgerald, vice president and general manager of Commercial Engines Operation at GE Aviation and National Chairman of this year's March for Babies, was joined today by 8-year-old Nina Centofanti to ring The Closing Bell® at the New York Stock Exchange and to kick off March for Babies fundraising season. Nina, the March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador, was born premature weighing less than 3 pounds.
"As chairman for the March for Babies campaign, it is an honor to represent the many dedicated volunteers and donors today at the closing bell of the NYSE," Fitzgerald says. "Their work, energy, donations, and advocacy help make a difference every day. Little Nina has proven what a great ambassador she is for March of Dimes. She and her family's story give us hope and serve as inspiration to families across the country. Events like this one today will increase awareness, participation, and funding for this year's March for Babies campaign."
One major healthcare problem facing the U.S. today is the alarming rate of babies born preterm. Nearly 500,000 babies are born too soon in the U.S. each year, costing the nation more than $26 billion annually. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges including cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and other chronic conditions.
"March of Dimes research helped save me when I was born premature," Nina says. "As national ambassador I hope I can help other babies from being born too soon."
Nina, now a healthy 8-year-old, will tour the country with her mother and father, Chris and Vince Centofanti, helping to raise awareness that premature birth can happen to anyone. Chris was a neonatal nurse who had cared for hundreds of babies, and Vince works for GE Healthcare Maternal Infant Care division. The family will participate in March for Babies events later this spring. Most events occur April 27-28.
Over the past 25 years, GE employees have supported the March for Babies, walking every April to raise money and awareness. Last year, 143 GE teams from 25 different sites participated in March for Babies. In 2013, GE's employee-led support hopes to increase participation and raise $1 million.
Last year, nearly 20,000 companies took part in March for Babies and accounted for approximately 75 percent of the $106 million raised on behalf of stronger, healthier babies. The goal for this year's event is $109 million. March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes' number one corporate supporter, Kmart, and other top sponsors Farmers Insurance Group, Macy's, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Famous Footwear, Actavis, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th anniversary. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the U.S., and all have benefited the March of Dimes life saving research and education.